Arizona Football Predictions
2011 was a year to forget for the Arizona football program. It won only one of its first six games with that win coming against an FCS opponent. That was enough for Mike Stoops to be shown the door as he had lost 10 consecutive games against FBS schools dating back to 2010 at that point.
The Wildcats seemed to respond to the firing, finishing 3-3 under the direction of interim coach Tim Kish. Despite the effort of the team under Kish, the administration chose to hire Rich Rodriguez as the new head coach.
While Rodriguez had a lot of success at West Virginia and a little bit of success in his final season at Michigan, that success did not come right away. In fact, he is just 9-32-1 lifetime in his first season with a program, including a combined 6-17 in his first seasons with the Mountaineers and Wolverines.
The Wildcats will move away from their pass-heavy attack and run Rich-Rod’s spread-option offense this season. His offense seems to be a better fit for the current personnel.
Arizona ranked first in the Pac-12 in passing offense last season with 370.8 yards per game but finished 11th in rushing with only 94.5 yards per contest. That will change under Rodriguez.
With Nick Foles making the jump to the NFL, fifth-year senior Matt Scott is expected to take over as starting quarterback. He has some experience. He led the Wildcats to three conference victories in 2010. His athleticism makes him a good fit for the new scheme.
Scott, and sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey, will have the luxury of playing behind an offensive line that brings back all five starters.
Carey rushed for 425 yards and six scores on only 91 totes last season. His number figures to be called a lot more this year.
There is both talent and experience in the receiving corps. Senior wide receiver Dan Buckner, who hauled in 42 passes for 606 yards and two touchdowns in 2011, is the team’s top target.
The defensive side of the football was a major weakness a year ago when the Wildcats finished last in the Pac-12 in total defense with 460.5 yards allowed per contest. They were especially poor against the pass, finishing last in the conference (119th in the nation) with 289.9 yards allowed per game through the air.
Rodriguez has brought in Jeff Casteel to install the 3-3-5 stack scheme that brought the duo so much success at West Virginia.
Depth will be an issue, but Casteel does have some talent at his disposal. Juniors Justin Washington and Sione Tuihalamaka are two of the more talented players on the unit. They anchor the defensive line.
The linebacker corps is very thin. Junior Jake Fischer, who has recovered from a knee injury, is the only linebacker on the roster with any starting experience in the Pac-12.
The secondary was dealt a big blow with safety Adam Hall going down with a season-ending knee injury. Now, the Wildcats will be counting on sophomore Tra’Mayne Bondurant, among others, to step up.
PAC-12 South Prediction: 4th Place
Arizona’s players must adjust to two totally different systems. Even so, I believe the Wildcats will win more games in 2012 than they did last season. A favorable schedule actually gives them a shot at making a bowl.
Arizona played just six games in Tucson last season but gets eight there this year. It has the potential to win all of those games with the exception of USC.
The Cats will need to win as many as possible at home because their road slate is difficult to say the least. They’ll be lucky to win one of their road contests against the likes of Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Utah.
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